Robert Gernon built Mountfitchet Castle following the Norman Conquest of England on the site of what is believed to have been an Iron Age fort and later a Roman and Saxon settlement. Robert came to England from France with William the Conqueror. The site was attacked in 1066, and Robert was rewarded with a lordship and built his castle here.
He built a traditional wooden Norman Motte and Bailey castle with a central keep, a wooden palisade wall surrounding the motte, and another palisade wall surrounding the bailey.
The de Montfitchet family were Normans, probably from the town of Montfiquet. Robert Gernon (Robert of the Moustache) received lands in Essex, and his family was based there in the castle at Stansted Mountfitchet, or Mountfitchet Castle. The Montfitchet family also founded Stratford Langthorne Abbey.
The Montfitchet family lasted five generations before dying out when Richard de Montfitchet died without issue in 1267. Richard de Montfitchet was the eldest son of another Richard de Montfitchet, a servant of Richard the Lionheart and a descendant of William de Montfitchet, whose barony included Mountfitchet Castle and comprised around fifty knights.
In 1214, Richard served on King John's failed expedition to Poitou in western France. Still, he soon turned to the side of the rebellion against King John and was one of the 25 Barons of Magna Carta entrusted to ensure the king's compliance with the terms of Magna Carta. One June 21st, 1215, just six days after the king had given his assent to Magna Carta, Richard secured the restoration to the custody of the forest of Essex, once held by his ancestors.
Richard was captured at the Battle of Lincoln in May of 1217 after the papal annulment of Magna Carta. When the French withdrew the following October, Richard renewed his royal allegiance and recovered his lands. From 1242 to 1246, he served as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire. When he died in 1267, he left no male heir, and his lands were divided among the children and grandchildren of his three sisters.
Mountfitchet Castle is unique in that it was reconstructed in the 1980s as the only wooden Motte and Bailey castle on its original site anywhere in the world.
Today, you can walk around the castle grounds and get a good sense of what daily life would have been like in 1066, with a central keep and several buildings in the inner bailey, including a blacksmith's hut, kitchen, and church.
Animals, including deer, goats, and chickens, also roam the grounds. One of the castle's cockerels, "Little John," was nominated for the world record for the tallest chicken, standing 66 centimeters tall.
It will take at most half a day to explore Mountfitchet Castle. To make a full day of visiting castles, Hertford Castle to the west and Colchester Castle to the East are within driving distance of Mountfitchet.